Kirk Ferentz is asked about how he will utilize his Thorpe Award winner in 2016. Chad Leistikow | Hawkcentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Two key Iowa defensive starters will be sidelined from spring football practices following surgeries.
Junior outside linebacker Ben Niemann and senior Greg Mabin are among five Hawkeye regulars from 2015 who will miss all or most of spring ball, Kirk Ferentz announced Tuesday, without specifying the injuries. The first of Iowa’s 15 spring practices between now and the 1 p.m. April 23 open scrimmage is Wednesday.
Ferentz also announced that third-down running back Derrick Mitchell Jr. would miss spring practice. Mitchell joins projected starting center James Daniels and second-team cornerback Joshua Jackson, who Ferentz announced in January had surgeries and said would be limited at best this spring.
The good news: All five players are expected to return by June when summer workouts begin.
“It’s been a little bit of an unusual offseason,” Ferentz said. “We’ve had a little bit more activity on that (injury) front than normal. Even a couple cases of mono, just to top it off. It’s just been one for the books.”
Some roster notes revealed in the updated two-deeps:
Offensive line: Freshman Brett Waechter, who enrolled early and is about to start his second spring, is the new backup left tackle to Cole Croston. With Daniels out, Sean Welsh is listed as the starter at center and right guard.
“Sean's probably our most versatile lineman,” Ferentz said. “If you look at (offensive line play) grades, he probably graded out as well as anybody last year on the football team, not just the offensive line.”
Running back: Akrum Wadley’s lack of weight control kept him buried on the depth chart at times. He hovered around 180 pounds and admitted he struggled to eat enough. But Ferentz said Wadley was at a consistent 190 pounds, a big step in the junior-to-be’s progression. Coaches want Wadley at 190.
Iowa's most explosive backfield option rushed for 204 yards and four touchdowns in a relief role last year at Northwestern.
Defensive line: Kyle Terlouw, who was a backup defensive tackle last year as a fourth-year junior, has left the program. Another walk-on, junior Jake Hulett, takes his place for now at a thin position. Iowa has five incoming freshman defensive linemen.
Linebacker: With Niemann out (he hurt his left ankle in Rose Bowl prep and played only three snaps vs. Stanford), Bo Bower returns as the starting outside linebacker this spring. Bower started 13 games as a freshman but sat behind Niemann as a sophomore. Two new names appeared on the depth chart: freshmen Nick Wilson (outside) and Angelo Garbutt (middle) as second-teamers.
“It's the best of who is left standing,” Ferentz said. “Angelo and Nick are guys that we believe are good prospects.”
Defensive back: With Mabin out, senior Maurice Fleming (who started at Nebraska) is elevated to the No. 1 line, and freshman Michael Ojemudia is the backup at both corners to Fleming and Desmond King. Ferentz toyed with playing Ojemudia a year ago as a true freshman.
King, meanwhile, remains as Iowa’s lead kick and punt returner as well. Could the talented Jim Thorpe Award winner play offense, too?
“I haven't thought about that,” Ferentz snickered. “We'll have to take that to the drawing board. You never know. Probably not this spring, but you never know.”
Iowa’s now-annual Valley Stadium open practice in West Des Moines will take place on a Friday night for the first time – April 8 with the exact time to be determined, probably 6 or 6:30.
“I think it’ll make it more family-friendly to do it in the evening,” Ferentz said.
IOWA’S LATEST 2016 SPRING DEPTH CHART
As released Tuesday, March 22. (Note: Projected two-deep players being withheld from spring drills due to injury include C James Daniels, RB Derrick Mitchell Jr., OLB Ben Niemann, CB Greg Mabin, CB Josh Jackson):
SE – Jerminic Smith (6-1, 185, soph.), Jay Scheel (6-1, 195, soph.)
LT – Cole Croston (6-5, 307, sr.), Brett Waechter (6-5, 290, fr.)
LG – Boone Myers (6-5, 305, jr.), Ryan Ward (6-5, 295, sr.)
C – Sean Welsh (6-3, 288, jr.), Steve Ferentz (6-2, 282, sr.)
RG – Sean Welsh (6-3, 288, jr.), Keagan Render (6-4, 308, soph.)
RT – Ike Boettger (6-6, 307, jr.), Dalton Ferguson (6-4, 310, soph.)
TE – George Kittle (6-4, 246, sr.), Jameer Outsey (6-3, 245, soph.)
WR – Matt VandeBerg (6-1, 190, sr.), Jonathan Parker (5-8, 188, jr.)
WR – Riley McCarron (5-9, 186, sr.), Adrian Falconer (6-1, 190, soph.)
QB – C.J. Beathard (6-2, 215, sr.)., Tyler Wiegers (6-4, 225, soph.)
RB – LeShun Daniels Jr. (6-0, 225, sr.), Akrum Wadley (5-11, 190, jr.)
FB – Drake Kulick (6-1, 236, jr.), Brady Ross (6-1, 240, fr.)
LE – Matt Nelson (6-8, 275, soph.), Sam Brincks (6-5, 270, soph.)
LT – Jaleel Johnson (6-4, 310, sr.), Faith Ekakitie (6-3, 290, sr.)
RT – Nathan Bazata (6-2, 285, jr.), Jake Hulett (6-3, 285, jr.)
RE – Parker Hesse (6-3, 250, soph.), Anthony Nelson (6-7, 250, fr.)
OLB – Bo Bower (6-1, 235, jr.), Nick Wilson (6-2, 217, fr.)
MLB – Josey Jewell (6-2, 235, jr.), Angelo Garbutt (6-2, 230, fr.)
WLB – Aaron Mends (6-0, 220, soph.), Jack Hockaday (6-1, 227, soph.)
LCB – Maurice Fleming (6-0, 205, sr.), Michael Ojemudia (6-2, 190, fr.)
SS – Miles Taylor (5-11, 205, jr.), Anthony Gair (6-2, 210, sr.)
FS – Brandon Snyder (6-1, 210, soph.), Jake Gervase (6-1, 210, soph.)
RCB – Desmond King (5-11, 203, sr.), Michael Ojemudia (6-2, 190, fr.)
PK – Miguel Recinos (6-1, 190, soph.), Mick Ellis (5-10, 190, soph.)
P – Colten Rastetter (6-2, 205, fr.), Miguel Recinos (6-1, 190, soph.)
LS – Tyler Kluver (6-0, 220, jr.), Jackson Subbert (6-3, 230, fr.)
Punt/kickoff returns – Desmond King, Riley McCarron
Holder – Tyler Wiegers